Grade ones start their first day of school at Alberview Primary in Alberton on Wednesday, 14 January 2015. Schools in Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Free State open for the first quarter on Wednesday while schools in Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Eastern Cape re-open on 21 January. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Johannesburg - As the inland school year began on Wednesday, about 300 high school pupils were turned away from a Limpopo school after its governing body decided it was more suited to being a primary school.

“The information we received is that the SGB at the school decided that they're changing the name of the school from Luthuli Combined School to Luthuli Primary School,” Limpopo education department spokesman Paena Galane said.

“They are a law upon themselves. They decided they are going to put a gun on the head of the department. It is tantamount to criminal activity.”

Galane said education authorities had spoken to school management at the Polokwane-based school and asked them to be patient with the department.

“They need to give us time. People need to work with us to ensure that all the schools that were put on the list are getting the necessary attention.”

Meanwhile, the department's Phuti Seloba said local government was taking “serious interventions” to ensure that children who had not been placed in a school would get a space by Friday.

“We give preference to kids coming from the catchment areas,” he added.

At the Boitumelong Primary School in Bloemhof, North West, parents and pupils were told that a platooning system was being implemented due to overcrowding.

Some children would be taught until noon and the rest from noon until 5pm.

“The school felt that rather than turning the children away, they'd turn to platooning,” provincial education department spokesman Brian Setswambung said.

“It's not something that we have planned, it was an attempt at averting a crisis of overcrowding.”

The department would make sure a solution was found and that platooning would not become a permanent feature at the school.

Elsewhere in the province, department officials visited schools to ensure that pupils, teachers and school books had arrived.

Setswambung said the day went well, although he admitted that late registration of pupils was a problem.

“In some cases the department is able to intervene and request schools to place such children,” he said.

North West education MEC Wendy Matsemela visited various schools and was happy with what she found, said Setswambung.

Parents in Pretoria were left frustrated when their children were turned away from schools across the city.

“I don't believe these schools genuinely don't have spaces for our kids. I have been to six schools this week and they all seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet like a choir,” said Koketso Mothirha outside the Hamilton Primary School.

She was seeking a Grade One vacancy for her son Samuel.

Mothirha, a travel agent, said she had recently moved into Pretoria from Bloemfontein.

“I do not know what I will do. I have the money and I want to pay in full. I had made arrangements for my son to attend school in Bloemfontein, but we are here because I have to work,” said the mother of two.

Principal of Pretoria's Dansa International College, Marelize de Bruin, had her hands full as Grade One pupils streamed in with parents in tow.

Her office had been inundated with inquiries from parents seeking places for their children.

“That is a huge problem. All our school grades have been full since August last year. We cannot take any more new pupils. We really want to help, but we can't,” she said.

“The message of early registration of pupils is always repeated. Schools cannot wait for the first day of school to take in students. At this stage we are prioritising teaching the pupils we have.”

At Boitumelong Secondary School in Tembisa, Johannesburg, a launch was held for the first seven “paperless” schools in Gauteng, that would see pupils using tablet computers.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa launched “the big switch-on” which he said would boost the country's economy.

The R17 billion project aimed to introduce tablets to all government schools in Gauteng by 2018.

Sapa